Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unemployed

Last Thursday Kyle was asked to resign from his job at the church and he did. We're relieved to be done but on the other hand we had of course hoped to find a new job first. He has severance so we're okay through Christmas and we're just praying he finds a new job before then.  

It's been a very stressful week. I'm working on cutting the budget where I can. A/C is off for the rest of the summer, Kyle's going to hang a clothesline for me, and all extra activities are on hold. 

Luckily Pennsylvania still has some cheap entertainment available this time of year. Like blueberry picking!





After we picked (and ate) lots of blueberries we brought them home to freeze. 


Yum! 

We're spending lots of time outside lately, and the fantastic cool weather is definitely helping! 

Our chickens are doing great and our two older ones are laying a consistent 4-5 eggs a week each. Our younger hens aren't laying yet but they give good hugs so we forgive them that :)

We're praying my husband gets a new job soon with decent pay and a regular schedule. He's not looking at taking another call as a pastor for many reasons so this means a career change as well. We think this will all work out for the best in the end.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Happy Fourth of July!

We've been having a fun summer since returning to Pennsylvania from our two big trips (Georgia and Maryland). Lots of time outside, lots of games, and very little productive stuff...so a perfect summertime :) 

We did get a little yard work done though! Our neighbors were showing us up with their beautiful little changes to their yard so we had to make sure we weren't bringing the whole street down. 

First, the boys got some flowers for their playhouse window boxes. 


And we replaced two of our chickens that we're killed by the skunk. These two new ones are Maran hens, a black one and a splash one. They're 1.5 years old and lay these beautiful speckled dark brown eggs! We've had 6 eggs so far and are loving it! I definitely need to get a plastic egg compartment for the fridge soon. Anyway, the black one is Raven and the splash one is Splash. We're super original around here obviously. 

But our neighbors call them Cluckie and Dark Meat. And they're right, Splash is by far the noisiest one of all five hens and she totally rules the roost. Generally everyone is getting along pretty well and roosting together happily at night. 


Unfortunately 3 of the kids have come down with colds and so there has been much clinginess, whining, and sleeping. Poor Tahlia fell asleep on big sister twice this week! 


Luckily she seemed to be feeling okay on 4th of July and had fun in the beautiful weather. It was about 70 degrees all day! 


Things are still a bit stressful around here and all our nice days have sort of been in spite of the fact that my husband's church is considering terminating his 'call' (contract-ish thing for pastors) because of budget concerns and apparently his insistence on keeping the baptismal font front and center. Don't even ask me to explain that one because I don't understand it.

 In any case, the budget issues have people freaking out and so instead we get to freak out about our personal budget. He's the breadwinner and, though I'd be willing to go back to teaching, I'm not certified in Pennsylvania so we'd have to move for me to work. Also, clergy aren't eligible for unemployment so we would be at the mercy of the church's severance package decisions. It's all very up in the air right now and we're not sure what's going to happen. 

In the meantime we just wait. And hope we don't need to say goodbye to good neighbors and beautiful weather just yet. 


If you want to say some prayers say a prayer for my friend Rhianna and her husband, as he was just laid off from his pastor job with no warning and a too-small severance package a few weeks ago. They definitely need him to find a new job soon, they've had a rough few years financially and medically. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Sewing Chat

Here's the new skirt pic I promised. I desperately wanted a normal length skirt that wasn't a mini-skirt and wasn't a maxi skirt. Just something light and summery. 

So I combined two free pattern instructions and added some of my own specifics on length and size and a zipper and I got this. 



What I really liked was using the pleats. This skirt has 5 large pleats and I think they give it some decent shape. I think on my next one I'll make even bigger/more pleats so it's fuller. As a very straight-figure, I really can use the extra volume around the hips to fake a more hourglass figure and balance me out. 


Friday, June 27, 2014

7QT: More Craziness? Sure, Why Not?

So I have no good pics that I can dump here because of dumb foster care rules and my own desire to have our 12 year old foster daughter in every family picture. I'll dig some up later I promise.

In the meantime, here's a recap for the month of June:

-1-

We officially wrapped up the school year! Mostly this is just for the school district's sake, in reality we'll be 'schooling' all summer except for the last 2 weeks of June. It was all I could do to drag us all half-dead across the finish line at the end of the year. I nearly said "here's your stupid portfolio, now leave us alone!" to the homeschool office when I turned in the gobs of paperwork they require of us. Just walking through high schools leaves me twitchy and this trip was no exception.

-2-

We're not doing school these two weeks because we traveled to Georgia for Kyle's sister and 2 cousin's graduation (from grad school and high school) parties and to visit family. Notes from the trip include:

- our new minivan rocks. I highly recommend the Honda Odyssey. 8 seats, separate A/C system, super sleek and comfortable. There is really nothing to hate. Plus the A/C and breaks work, a big improvement on our last van.

- people in Georgia are very concerned with family planning. Apparently they are baffled by our lack of it. C'est la vie. Everyone wants a number of kids we plan to have and last I checked my uterus never came with a serving size posted on the outside with other random facts. Seriously, I've not been asked that question in 7 years of marriage living outside of Georgia but cross the state line and it's the thing to know.

-  12 hour drives are never fun, no matter how nice the vehicle is

- spontaneous trips are always fun! We stopped to see the Shenandoah Caverns in Virginia and meet up with my friend Rene in Charlotte! Super fun times.

- I have reached my pool quota for the next year. Daisy does not have a pool quota, that girl could live in the water! :)

- Daisy's new nickname, which may become her new legal name at adoption finalization, seems to be sticking...stay tuned for news on that.

- heat + vacation crazy schedules may result in toddlers staying up until 4am...including a random game of dress-up at 2am by pulling skirts out of the suitcases. That girl is so girly!


-3-

Skunks are evil bloodsuckers. We awoke two days before our trip to a neighbor telling us she heard our hens screaming. A skunk was in the coop on a killing spree. It was awful! Kyle and I are fully traumatized! I still can't really talk about it much. But we lost 3 of them and I chased the (rabid?) skunk away with a hose while Kyle saved the remaining 3 hens by placing them on the roof of the playhouse...totally genius and weird but they seemed to be on board with the plan and just settled up there. We will likely be replacing a couple of the hens to get back up to 5 at least.

-4-

I'm actually getting kinda good at doing Daisy's hair. Learning cornrows has a steep learning curve.

-5-

I sewed a new skirt for myself, the first thing I'd sewn in over a month! A repeat and pics of both will be forthcoming

-6-

I am currently in Columbia, MD for an week and a half doing an Orton-Gillingham training due to the great generosity of friends. My brain is just filled to bursting already with new information and it's only the second day! For those unfamiliar with it, Orton-Gillingham is the method of reading instruction that is used for people with dyslexia and other language disabilities. Daisy seems to have severe dyslexia and other random stuff affecting her ability to read so I began an O-G program with her back in February and she's made great progress already. Now I'll be a trained tutor so I can drop the super expensive scripted curriculum and I'll truly understand how to help her. 

-7-

My baby boy is turning 6 this Saturday! He's getting to be such a big kid now, it's amazing. This birthday party will be pretty low-key but there will be pics later.



Friday, May 30, 2014

Literary Analysis With Struggling Readers

One of my biggest challenges this year as a homeschooler has been sorting out how to live out the truly classic, beautiful education I want my children to have with a child who is not the typical or advanced learner. There is just so much to cover in a relatively small amount of time! When I think back on the 11 years we did not have, the 8 years Daisy spent hearing only half of everything everyone was saying around her, the 11 years of neglect and abuse, the 5 years of no education at all before she entered school, and the days and months she just wasn't even sent to school, and then the 6 years she spent in school but not actually noticing or learning much of anything...

I start to freak out a bit.

But then I think on how much progress she's made since coming into foster care and especially since coming into our home permanently as an adoptive placement.  And I relax just a tiny bit.

Our biggest struggle, hands down, has been working around her reading abilities. It's so hard to do any 5th grade level work when she can only read on a 1st grade reading level. Now she's about up to a 2nd grade level but that's still pretty far behind. We're making good, steady progress in her ability to just straight up read and decode words, but I worry about all the comprehension lessons I'd normally be teaching at this logic stage.

Then I stumbled on the idea of doing literary analysis with picture books!

Can I just say that this is so simple and logical that I am embarrassed I didn't think of this myself! In fact in college we were explicitly walked through how to teach literary analysis through pairing classic literature with young adult literature which share the same themes. And yet I never thought to extend that all the way down to picture books.

This summer I will be reading through my literary analysis books and classical and charlotte mason questions to ask, thinking along the lines of socratic method teaching. Then I'm going to take those lofty concepts and bring them down to very easy to read but good quality picture books.

We started it this week and I feel like we've hit on something that really clicks for Daisy. This sort of lesson would normally result in tears and frustration and she didn't get close to doing either! And the fun part is Tobias and Peter can join us too. So far this month we're working on plot analysis with Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman and Don't Wake Up The Bear? by Marjorie Dennis Murray.

I made up a simple worksheet for Daisy to write her answers down on, to help her organize her thoughts and see the story progression. It's nothing novel at all but I included a link to the PDF version so you can print out your own. I'm all about sharing resources and not reinventing the wheel!




Plot Analysis Worksheet






Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Catholic Married to a Lutheran Pastor...How Does That Work??

"Wait, what? Your husband is a Lutheran pastor...and you're a Catholic? How does that work????" 

I get this question a lot. I'm never at all offended because honestly, it does sound like some sort of a joke. 

A Lutheran and a Catholic walk into a coffee shop...

except it ends in "and 4 years later got married." 

And it's not a joke, it's just our life. 



This will have to be in 2 or 3 parts. I just can't delve into 'how' we make it work today without going into the journey of 'how' we got here. Because while we started out Lutheran and Catholic we weren't at all the same kind of Lutheran and Catholic back when we got married.

See, when we got married I was fairly newly practicing as a Catholic. My family was not and is not Catholic in any real sense. I have no idea what my parents think of God, faith and religion is just not something that figures in their life. So I had only 3 brief early years of catechism to get my sacraments, basically I suspect to keep my grandmother happy? I have no idea why honestly. I began attending church on my own at about 16 off and on and gradually became a regular attender. At 18 I met Kyle, a lifelong ELCA Lutheran. He felt a distinct and unmistakable call to ministry starting early on, about 14. He was cute, I was head over heels but extremely in denial about it for an entire year.

I knew I would make a terrible pastor's wife....and I was 100% right.

But after a year of crushing I realized there was no escaping this and I decided to make a go of it. We ended up starting dating about a year before he was due to graduate college and go to seminary in St. Paul, MN. By the time he left for seminary we knew we were both serious, headed towards marriage eventually, and we had worked out that Lutherans and Catholics actually had a ton in common. Our liturgies are almost identical, the prayers are identical (minus the Hail Mary), and more of the theology is the same than different actually. Naively, of course, we both underestimated the difference those small differences would make later on.



We were married in 2007 just before I graduated college and during Kyle's second year of seminary. We were married in Kyle's Lutheran church because a) my family didn't attend church and Kyle's did and b) I was told that Catholics couldn't marry Protestants in the church (Hint: that's a bald-faced LIE told by grumpy old sort-of-Catholics). We came back from our honeymoon and opened our letter telling us where Kyle would be placed for his internship. We didn't get any of our 3 choices....instead we were left with Mesa, Arizona??? 4 months later we had loaded up our two kittens and moved 1000 miles away from our friends and family to a desert, a nice apartment, and two brand new jobs. I quickly became pregnant (remember that poorly catechized part...somehow I missed the whole anti-contraception thing but God has a sense of humor so we got pregnant anyway). I was exhausted, constantly nauseous, lonely, and depressed. We worked opposite hours as a teacher (9-5 weekdays) and pastor (evenings and weekends primarily).  Basically I only attended Kyle's church that year. I even went so far as to do some serious research into Lutheranism. I wanted to be 100% sure I had it right, and all the Lutherans I had met were truly lovely people and their church was soooo similar.

After one year there we moved to St. Paul for Kyle's final year of seminary. We had a baby in tow this time and three cats. Because of said baby and childcare costs we realized it would be best for me to stay home and do a little babysitting for cash, since childcare and a car would eat up my entire salary. I found myself in yet another new state with a newborn and a lot of free time on my hands.

Enter the internet.

And books.

And way too much time for thinking.

I was still in my researching-Lutheranism phase for the first half of our time there but holding onto my identity as Catholic to avoid any pressure to convert to anything. Surprisingly I wasn't the only Catholic married to a Lutheran seminarian at Luther Seminary. I think there were four of us inter-denominational couples.

Well, interspersed in this Lutheran-research was just general Christianity-research and prayer and serious thoughts about contraception....because remember our little unexpected firstborn? Kyle and I talked and we both decided it'd be best to research this whole anti-birth-control thing we kept hearing the Catholic Church and a few new Protestant groups taught. I chose exclusively Protestant or secular materials just to make sure there wasn't a hidden agenda and out of respect for Kyle's perspective. And we realized without question there was zero justification for hormonal birth control and even barrier methods were extremely suspect and *clearly* not super effective.

So as this was happening we were attending an emergent Lutheran church, Mercy Seat, that really focused on bringing back historic and meaningful liturgy. It appealed to my Catholic sensibilities and Kyle's traditional sensibilities and we were happy there. I still miss it....too bad they're not Catholic :)

Being at Mercy Seat just fueled my soul-searching....which when combined with internet access and lots of free time and motherhood led me to the Conversion Diary blog. Which opened Pandora's box! There were book suggestions and months of deep conversation via comments to read through. I had already read C.S. Lewis and some of the other recommended books about Christianity in general but now I read Scott Hahn's The Lamb's Supper.

Talk about having your mind blown!

I was sold at that point. And I was probably obnoxiously so. I wanted more and dove headfirst into the world of Catholic thought and culture, trying to sort out this real Catholicism that was so new to me. When I'd attended Mass in high school and college I had seen this beauty and felt a truth....but it was all so vague and I seemed to be the only one. I had no idea the depth that lay underneath the beauty of the Mass and the extent of the Truth that lay underneath the external rules and rituals.

I may or may not have started slipping my copy of The Lamb's Supper onto Kyle's bedside table :)

All this time he was patient and supportive with my own searching but the second the conversation turned to his thoughts all I got was seminary-speak...a rare language full of abstracts and qualifiers and theological terms and greek...lots of greek. Needless to say it wasn't particularly fruitful for either of us but I still think, and Kyle would agree, it was good for us to have these conversations. Just as a couple I think if we couldn't have those conversations about matters of faith then what kind of marriage would we have? We both wanted and needed to understand where the other stood on the specifics of our faith.

After 1.5 years in St. Paul and after I managed to read and pray my way back into the Catholic church (yes, while living at Luther Seminary....I'll pause for you to finish laughing), we moved to West Virginia for Kyle's first call as a pastor. When we interviewed we told the church that I was unequivocally Catholic and they needed to be okay with that. I was supportive of Kyle and they would see me each Sunday but I would also be attending Mass weekly. They were surprisingly fine with it...in theory.

We moved, I got pregnant and spent a few months throwing up incessantly. Once I was not throwing up quite as much in my third trimester I found a local church and e-mailed the priest, explaining that I was a cradle Catholic but had been away from the church for a bit and needed to a) get back to confession and taking the eucharist and b) have my marriage recognized by the Church. He responded promptly and cheerfully and thus gave me a positive re-entrance into the Church. Our marriage was convalidated on Peter's first birthday...a truly joyful event as it also meant at that point I was fully within the Catholic Church once again and receiving the Eucharist in what I had come to believe was the One True Church.


...and now that I've written a novel nobody wants to read I'll stop there. Next time I'll get into the nitty gritty of how it works for us to be an inter-faith and pastoral couple nowadays.

SPOILER ALERT: We do not have it all figured out. Not even close.

I'll also suggest a couple book resources for understanding the two denominations.


Monday, May 26, 2014

Moving Day...for the Chickens


Our sweet fluffy chicks have been eating us out of house and home for roughly 10 weeks now and it was time to kick them out of the basement finally! We meant to have them outside far earlier but it's been so cold at night still and Kyle needed to finish the coop so we just got them moved outside this evening for the first time.

Here are 3 of them all ready in their moving box :)











And the construction process..,